Facebook Set to Buy Fleet of Drones

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You may have been very confused by that title. Why on Earth would Facebook want a fleet of drones?

Facebook seems set to swallow another company by acquiring drone manufacturer Titan Aerospace for $60 million and will be looking to launch a fleet of drones to provide internet access worldwide (much like the Outernet project we reported on). Superpowers like Google are also looking to provide internet from the sky with large balloons in its Project Loon and so it seems the race for new internet providing methods is on. And with these large companies working towards those less fortunate who do not have access to the internet, we may see quite a philanthropic battle.

s50_coast_1366[Image Source: Titan Aerospace]

Facebook is more known for acquiring consumer based technologies - everyone's aware of the Instagram and recent Whatsapp purchases. But Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has set a new target with his Internet.org initiative that looks to provide internet to the least connected corners of the globe. The goal is, as you may have guessed, to launch a fleet of drones into the sky to provide a mobile internet service. The Internet.org initiative is receiving support from many large companies including Samsung, Ericsson, Nokia, Opera, Mediatek and Qualcomm and aims to increase the global internet adoption rate which is currently around 9% annual increase.

Titans drones can reportedly remain in the sky for five years, powered by solar panels that cover their outer shells. During periods of darkness an internal battery ensures the continual operation of the drones and once the sun reappears, the batteries can be recharged whilst also operating on solar power. The Solara 50 has a wingspan of 50m and weighs just 160kg.  The plan is to test the project by starting in Africa, but I won't be expecting any African tribe 'selfies' any time soon.

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s50_farm_1366[Image Source: Titan Aerospace]

When the deal is finalised, it seems that Titan's entire current fleet will go toward the project and they will begin by producing 11 000 of the Titan Solara 60 model which can offer a parking load of 100 kg. Titan's drones have been dubbed Atmosats (Atmospheric Satellites) as they sit within the Earth's atmosphere but fly above the FAA regulated airspace which ends at 60 000 feet, hence satellite.

It's not quite clear how beneficial this will be to a company like Facebook. They seem to be fighting for every potential customer and providing these areas of no connection may give more of the World's population a taste of what the internet can offer and thus, may attract more lifetime customers.

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